Fred Morgan Kirby Prize for Scaling Impact

The Fred Morgan Kirby Prize for Scaling Social Impact is an annual global prize of USD $150,000 in unrestricted funds that amplifies and accelerates the work of an enterprise working to scale its impact on social or environmental problems around the world.

Named after early entrepreneur Fred Morgan Kirby, this award is made possible through the generous partnership of the F. M. Kirby Foundation.

The Kirby Prize recognizes enterprises pursuing strategic pathways to impact at scale, who are close to the challenges at hand, who center the voice and experience of the populations they serve, who have demonstrated traction, and who embody courageous and collaborative leadership.  This prize is open to any legal form, geographic location, and any social or environmental impact area. 

Applicant next step: Attend the October 18 Information Session

Phase 1 application opens November 1, 2023

The Prize Process

The Kirby Impact Prize is a tiered application process that begins with an open application period running November 1, 2023 to January 8, 2024 and award winner announced in late May 2024. More detail on the process and benefits of the prize below (click arrows for detail):

  • One impact enterprise will be selected to receive a USD $150,000 unrestricted award. Unrestricted means you determine the best way to allocate the funds within your organization, and have the flexibility to pivot as needed – flexibility that we know is critical for learning, scaling organizations. Note that while we are providing flexible funding, we are looking for applicants who plan to use the funds as part of a strategy to achieve impact at scale, as opposed filling a budget gap or pursing “business as usual.”
  • A tiered application process that respects your time. To decrease the application burden, we run a tiered process by which we ask for limited information in the first, open round, and then only ask for additional information in the next phases from those most closely aligned with the prize criteria. If we do not believe that your organization is in contention to win the prize, we will not ask you for additional information.  Those organizations making it to the finalist round will receive a USD $1,000 award in recognition of their time and effort participating in the full application process. 
  • Application questions that add value to your strategic thinking. Many past applicants have told us that our application questions (and accompanying guidance) have helped them to articulate elements of their work more clearly and think through potential gaps – which they said would benefit them in future funder and stakeholder conversations.
  • Different levels of feedback throughout the application process. For all applicants making it past the first round of applications (i.e., Phase 2 applicants and finalists) we offer individual feedback (as requested) on the Selection Committee’s assessment of the application. For all applicants not making it past the Phase 1, we provide a summary capturing the most common pieces of feedback cited by the Selection Committee. 
  • Institutional and brand support from CASE at Duke. CASE will share profiles of all finalists to boost their exposure among our network.  We will also widely celebrate the ultimate prize winner, and offer that organization additional institutional support, connections, and coaching.  
  • Next generation business leaders learn from participation in the process. Select Duke MBA students participate in the Selection Committee for the Kirby Impact Prize. The students take part in workshops and trainings to deeply understand the core elements of the prize evaluation, to discuss trade-offs inherent in being in the “funder” position, and to appreciate and mitigate the ways in which bias shows up in our reviews. The students benefit from the opportunity to see a broad spectrum of impact enterprises, approaches, and innovations, and take that experience to future work in corporations, investment organizations, and impact ventures.


The F.M. Kirby Impact Prize is open to all impact enterprises (nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid), working anywhere in the world, that meet the following criteria:

  • Strong evidence of impact over at least 3 years and a thoughtful plan for how to use the prize to scale that impact in the next 3-5 years.
  • Minimum operation budget of at least $250,000 USD. The strongest applications historically have an annual operating budget between $1-3 million USD.
  • Robust, formal non-discrimination policy that protects against discrimination on the basis of marginalized identities. Marginalized identities may include, but are not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, caste, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disability.
  • For tax reasons, international enterprise applicants must have an established presence in the US, whereby they are a US taxpayer and hold a federal taxpayer identification number. This could include those recognized as an organization exempt from federal impact tax under IRC section 501(c)3 status, a US-based fiscal sponsorship agreement, or other.
  • Exemplary leadership that aligns with the core values of Fred Morgan Kirby, including integrity, resourcefulness, resilience, meaningful collaboration, and diversity.

How to Apply

  • Complete the Phase 1 application in the application portal by 11:59 pm EST on January 8, 2024. The link will be provided November 1, 2023. The selection committee will review up to the first 250 applications.
    • For reference, review the complete list of application questions and our Frequently Asked Questions. You can submit any additional questions about the application process here.
  • A select number of applicants will be invited to move on to the Phase 2 application.

Application Timeline

October 18, 2023Virtual Information Session, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT. Register here. Recording and slides posted after the session.
November 1, 2023Phase 1 application opens for all eligible enterprises.
January 8, 2024
11:59 pm EST
Phase 1 application closes. There are no exceptions to this deadline. The selection committee will review up to the first 250 applications submitted.
February 16, 2024All Phase 1 applicants notified of their status, and a subset are invited to submit Phase 2 applications.
March 10, 2024Phase 2 applications close, for invited applicants.
April 5, 2024All Phase 2 applicants notified of their status, with a subset recognized as Finalists and invited to interviews
April 10-19, 2024Finalists participate in final review, including virtual 60-minute interview with selection committee
May 2024Winner notified and public announcement

Sign up for the CASE email list to receive an alert when the application opens.

Evaluation Criteria

The Kirby Prize Selection Committee, composed of CASE staff and selected MBA students, will evaluate all applications based on three main dimensions: Impact, Readiness to Scale, and Leadership. See below for more detail on each dimension. 

Impact: The enterprise’s solution is very effective in addressing the main challenge identified, and there is demonstrated need and demand for the solution among those impacted.  Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they:

  • Show a clear and well-researched understanding of the issue they are addressing and the root causes therein. 
  • Provide a robust theory of change to demonstrate how their activities will lead to outcomes and impact, with strong ties to the root causes of the issue (as above). 
  • Have compelling evidence of impact and traction (for at least three years) and demonstrated commitment to continuous learning and improvement. 
  • [In Phase 2 of the application] Articulate a clear business model for the solution, including the key impact drivers and key factors for sustainability. 

Note: While we do not weigh the achievement of broad impact versus deep impact differently, we do consider the order of magnitude for the number of people or environmental elements impacted relative to the depth of impact experienced.

Readiness to Scale: The enterprise is clear on the key elements of their program, product, or principles that are critical to the impact they seek as they scale, and have begun testing likely pathways to scale.  Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they: 

  • Articulate a plan to achieve significantly greater impact over the next several years, ideally incorporating strategies that go beyond growth alone (e.g., through partnerships, policy change, influence). 
  • [In Phase 2 of the application] Articulate a compelling plan to achieve impact at scale, which includes clear and realistic steps to get there and reflects consideration of key ecosystem players, including likely implementers and payers. 
  • [In Phase 2 of the application] Demonstrate thoughtfulness around key risks to their scaling plans and ways to mitigate those. 
  •  [In Phase 2 of the application] Demonstrate the presence of a strong, embedded learning culture, including systems and processes in place, that has led to real change. 

Leadership & Team. The enterprise and its leadership demonstrate the core characteristics of early social entrepreneur Fred Morgan Kirby, including integrity, resourcefulness, and resilience. The enterprise and leadership also prioritize meaningful collaboration, diversity, equity, inclusion, and proximity to the problem as a means to find the best solutions. Specifically, applicants will be evaluated on the extent to which they: 

  • Demonstrate the presence and active use of mechanisms to hold themselves accountable to beneficiaries. 
  • Demonstrate that the organization’s leadership and decision-making power reflects shared experiences, identities, and/or geographic communities relevant to the organization’s work. 
  • [In Phase 2 of the application] Align staffing plans with scaling plans, including identifying key gaps and showing resourcefulness and prioritization in plans to fill them. 


Past Winners

Over the first three years of the Kirby Impact Prize, CASE and the F. M. Kirby Foundation recognized three outstanding enterprises with $100,000 in unrestricted funds. Learn more about our previous winners and finalists.

2023: Essmart
2022: Math Corps
Minnesota, USA
2021: Healthy Learners